Return from Exile

I’ve haven’t made a single entry in over months, it has been a long and hot summer in the south. October 4th is written in ink for me to return to the Blue Ridge mountains and enjoy another backpacking trip! I’ll make the pilgrimage to Twenty Mile section of the Smokies and enjoy a 15-20 miles loop. Posts will be coming soon about what gears I’ll be taking, detailed trip report, etc.

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Journey

For those of you that have been following me waiting for some posts related to mountain biking and backpacking, I apologize for not honoring my commitment. I recently made a life changing decision that caused me to leave the mountains of east Tennessee and western North Carolina and return to my birthplace: Tuscaloosa, Alabama. I miss the mountains already and cannot wait to return one day. After I graduated from college things started to change, and I felt unhappy here if I wasn’t on a mountain but I couldn’t stay on it forever. I didn’t have the cash to move out west to the Rockies or the North Cascades. So, I went back to the heart of Dixie and I killed the shadow of yesterday, clean shirt, second chance, and a new job. (Yes, I some what plagiarized that from a song by Monsters of Folks.)

I may not be here long, maybe I end up uprooting and going out west. I’m just living day-by-day in the search of happiness.ย  The past can be both sad and happy, but all I can do is look forward to the next day. May everyone find what they’re searching for and hold on it to as long as possible.

Cheers,

Kevin

 

Short Hike

I went for a super short hike today. I almost made it to Mt. Sterling before unexpected road condition forced me to turn around. Apparently this road isn’t on the Park’s website as it’s not owned by them… Oops. Anyway, I changed my plans and decided to hike to a waterfall I have never been too.ย  A beautiful hike, no matter how short, is better than no hike at all. I also saw two bull elks roaming near the Big Creek Ranger Station. It was my first encounter with an elk and I’ve heard they are pretty content with staying in the Cataloochee area of the Park. Anyway, just a few pictures:

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Computer Problem

My laptop is 5 years old and I’ve put it through some hell over the years in college. As a result, my backspace button is not working at the moment… This will hinder my ability to post blogs in efficient manner. I canย  post from my phone, but that will take awhile. I have plans for day hiking but the Smokies has been closing roads due the weather before I can even get to the trail head!!!! Soon as my schedule and lack road closures get on the same page I’ll get out and take some pictures of snowy mountains. ๐Ÿ™‚ Happy trail, everyone!

Backpacking Fee

I’m not a lawyer; I’m educated in accounting. It has came to my attention that a non-profit organization has threaten to sue the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The basis is that the new fee imposed on backpackers is highly illegal. This is the organization: http://www.southernforestwatch.org/ . They mentioned on their site that the fee is an “entrance fee.” They are indeed correct about the deed stipulation and the Smokies continues to not charge such fee. I have done some reading and I believe I have found the legal cause for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to legally collect fees from backpackers. Here a link to FAQ for the GSMNP: http://www.nps.gov/grsm/parkmgmt/bc-reservation-permit-faq.htm and here a quote from the same link:

“6. Will I be able to purchase an annual backcountry camping pass?

Backcountry fees will be collected under authority of the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (FLREA). FLREA permits the creation of annual passes for park entrance fees but not other fees, such as backcountry use fees. Great Smoky Mountains National Park does not have an entrance fee.”

So, that lead me to reading about the FLREA, again here the link: http://www.blm.gov/wo/st/en/prog/Recreation/recreation_national/recreation_fees__/rea_info_page/rea_summary.html

Here the key quote from FLREA:

Expanded Amenity Fees are fees that provide direct benefits to individuals or groups. They include things like developed campgrounds, cabin rentals, highly developed boat docks and swimming areas. They may also include services like hookups, dump stations, special tours and reservations services.:”

The keywords from the above quote is “reservations services.” Which is essentially the primary purpose of the fee. I believe this is will be the government main argument and they did indeed follow through with a lot better reservation and planning services that were resulted of the fee.

The previous reservation system wasn’t broken, but it could have been improved and I actually like the new system. So, I will be gladly pay the $4 to enjoy such convenience service. I also live in an area where there are much more places to go backpacking that doesn’t cost money other than gas and food.

Feel free to share your opinion in the comment section.

Future Trip: Give Me Idea(s)

I sit here daydreaming where I want to go next as far as backpacking is concern. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park has now imposed a $4.00 fee per person per night for anyone who wish to backpack here. I can live with the fee since it’s not completely outrageous, but it will take some getting used too. The only fees I think about when going backpacking in the Smokies is food and gas money.

Anyway, I want some idea(s) for my next trip. This trip can be in the Smokies on the southern side of the park around Thunderhead Mountain, Gregory Bald, etc. Or the next trip can be at any of the following locations: Roan Highlands, Nantahala Headwaters Loop, Shining Rock Wilderness, and Panthertown Valley. The last three are located in Western North Carolina while Roan Highlands is on the Tennessee and North Carolina state line. I already have the Nantahala Headwaters Loop mapped out, but the other three areas I have no idea what loop to do. If I go back to the Smokies, I want go somewhere I haven’t been. I have not explore the southern end of the park other than Cades Cove and the Little River Trail. I may leave Gregory Bald alone until June when the rhododendron are in bloom. Of course I’m not the only one who is thinking about this. There is a lot of places within two hours of driving from my house and I have no idea which locations to explore next, so help me out bloggers!!! ๐Ÿ™‚

My Hammock Got a Liposuction

I was sitting around in my hammock over the weekend thinking how freakishly huge this bug net is on my hammock. It also has extra fabric attached to the main body. I’ve been wanting to make a new hammock for some times; the new hammock would have been single layer with no attached bug net. This is the bug net I would have used for the new hammock: http://www.wildernesslogics.com/NOSEEUM-BUG-NET-NOSEEUM-BUG-NET.htm

Anyway, my hammock weighs 2lbs on a scale. After lounging for a few minutes I had a brain fart and said to my self: self, why not modify this hammock? So, I decied to take a bold move of giving my Grand Trunk Skeeter Beeter Pro hammock a liposuction. This is what the hammock looked like prior to its operation:Hammock

As you can see from the picture above, the bug net is freakishly huge compared to its competitors with similar designs. Due to my short thought and poor research at the time of the purchased, I learned real quick to set up the bug net as shown above with a tarp was nearly impractical. The shock cords interfered with the tarp in a big way, and it also had too much potential to create drip lines in a good rain storm. I made some mods to leave the bug net suspended in the air under the tarp without the potential for drip lines. It wasn’t perfect since the bug net still dangled close to my face and made the hammock feel small. I ended up cutting the brown fabric, zipper, and bug net completely off.

Here is the excess: IMAG1410

Here what it looks like now: IMAG1412Obviously I need to do a little more trimming. Also, I don’t sleep like this. The hammock can achieve a flatter lay if I stretch it out some more. It’s just hanging in a banana shape solely for the picture.

This is what it used to look like while stuffed: IMAG0951 It’s on the right, by the way. The small looking stuffed thing on the left is my tarp.

Here what it looks like while stuffed post-op: IMAG1411 It’s slimmer and nearly the exact size of a 1 liter Nalgene water bottle. This stuff sack used to be the stuff sack for my foot print for the Big Agnes Seedhouse tent. I leave the footprint in the same stuff sack as the tent.

I need to add a ridge line going from one end of the hammock to the other and I hope to procure the bug net I posted above. The ridge line will keep the next bug net off of my face and give me a place to hang a light and a storage pocket. The entire set up at pre-op (with tarp, ropes, stakes, etc.) was right around 2.9 pounds. I weighted the stuff sack post-op without the Amsteel Blue ropes, and my scale registered it at 11oz. With my tarp, the bug net at the top of this post, and modified hammock I’m looking at estimated weight real close to 1.15lbs. Factor in an extra few ounces for ropes and stakes, I’ll be slightly over 2 pounds. It’s still a lot lighter than it was before the operation. This projected achieved nearly a pound loss (for the hammock itself) and increased volume in my pack! I might be a little crazy. ๐Ÿ™‚